The Roosevelts

31 May

I recently finished the Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelt’s.  It goes into detail about the family that forever changed and shaped our country.  Some of them overcame obstacles from their health to become stronger.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a tough childhood to become a central figure in the country and one of the most active first ladies in our countries history.  The Roosevelt’s with their wealth could have stayed in the shadows and lived a private life but they choose to live a life of purpose.

He overcame asthma as a kid and became a fan of the outdoors.  It was through his work with nature that he learned to relate to the rest of the country.  He became president after William McKinley was assassinated.  Although Teddy Roosevelt came for much, he sought to give to those who had few.  He was responsible for child labor laws, helped end a coal miners’ strike and did more to protect the environment than almost any other president.

Teddy Roosevelt would be considered a liberal Democrat today by most standards.  Although he was liberal domestically he was very much a hawk on international issues.  He was the youngest person to become president but he still chose to end his career in public service earlier than he had to.  After getting elected president to a full term, he announced that he would not run for re-election.  His decision ultimately led to a split within his party which also led his cousin towards the path of the presidency.

The 1912 presidential election was a race between Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The split within the Republican Party lead to Woodrow Wilson getting elected president.  Franklin D. Roosevelt served in the new administration as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Shortly after Woodrow Wilson left the White House, FDR contracted polio.  Like his relative Teddy, Franklin had to overcome health problems to become a public figure.  In many ways FDR’s polio strengthened him and helped him become the leader we know him as today.

FDR was elected president in 1932 in a landslide.  Although FDR never faced a competitive presidential election, he faced greater challenges in his presidency than anyone except Abraham Lincoln.  The economy was in a tailspin before FDR took office.  He acted swiftly by signing much of his New Deal legislation into law.  When our nation’s economy was struggling we did massive infrastructure building.  We built skyscrapers and the interstate highway system was conceived of.  Some of the jobs were temporary but it put Americans back to work and lifted the country’s spirits.

While the economy was still recovering a new threat was growing overseas.  Japan and Germany were invading surrounding territories.  Many Americans were not ready to go to war partly because the threat seemed to evade us.  That changed when the U.S. cut off fuel supplies from Japan in response to Japan’s aggression towards its neighbors.  Public opinion was unchanged until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on us.  The war united the country and finally ended the Great Depression.  Unfortunately, FDR didn’t live to see the end of the war.

During her husband’s administration Eleanor became one of the most active and important first ladies.  After FDR’s death she became one of the most important people in the Democratic Party.  In many ways she was a better person than her husband.  She continued championing Progressive causes until her death in 1962.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a troubled childhood and became a giant in American politics.

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